Projects that require intense focus and concentration can be exhausting and frustrating, especially if you’re frequently interrupted by text, email, phone calls, other projects and duties.

Multitasking has been shown to kill productivity. Instead of getting more done, multitasking (or more accurately, switch-tasking) trains your brain to focus more on distractions. If you regularly switch-task, you decrease your ability to focus until your attention span rivals that of a goldfish: a whopping nine seconds.

You can use the goldfish as inspiration to increase your productivity with a few tweaks to your work flow. Here are  steps to get started:

  1. Define the project. Get specific and break down into the smallest steps possible the project you’re working on.  This is a secret weapon against procrastination. You want each task to be small enough so that it takes you approximately 25 minutes or less. If a task takes longer than 25 minutes, look for a way to break it down further into even-smaller pieces.
  2. Prioritize your tasks. Review the steps in your project. Identify bigger tasks that take 25 minutes. Write them down in the order in which they need to be completed.
  3. Make a Goldfish List. Remember the nine-second goldfish attention span?  What I call a Goldfish List serves as a proactive distraction and gives your brain a break from intense focus. Identify the smaller tasks and create a Goldfish List, made up of  smaller tasks that you can get done in 10 minutes or less, tasks that are quick, easy and require little focused thinking. Intentionally creating these breaks helps you avoid switch-tasking. You’ll be able to get the little things done without interrupting your focused work time.
  4. Break your day into 40-minute blocks. For each of your work hours, write down one 25 minute task followed by 10 minutes’ worth of tasks from your Goldfish List. Give yourself at least five minutes to stretch, grab a drink of water and take a bio break.
  5. Use a timer. Silence your phone, turn off your messaging notifications, shut down all unnecessary programs on your computer, set your timer for 25 minutes and GO! Get as much as you can done in that time. Take a quick 5-minute break. Come back and set your timer for 10 minutes and get as much done as you can from your Goldfish List.

This is a simple process: Define → Prioritize → Make a Goldfish List → Schedule → Do it.

Give it a try and let me know how it works.